How to Convert VHS to DVD with a DVD Recorder

DVDs and VHS tapes

When preserving your favorite movies or memories, the standard used to be VHS videotapes. But with the advancement of DVD technology, the advantages of DVDs proved to outweigh those of VCR tapes. Videotapes can wear out over time, becoming bent, damaged, or dirty. The cassette casings are vulnerable to damage as well, rendering the tape inside useless. Storage is easier with DVDs since they take up less space than videos. Not to mention the quality of picture and sound is higher on DVDs.

So the question becomes, how do I convert my videotapes to DVDs in order to preserve them for my future enjoyment? There are several options. First, you could use a VHS to DVD conversion service that will do the transfer for you. However, if you have tons of videos to convert, over time you'll save money by doing the conversions yourself in the convenience of your home.

The computer-savvy among us will use their computer to transfer their videos to DVD. It requires copying the video to a digital file on the computer using an analog converter. The file gets compressed into MPEG-2 format before being burned onto a DVD.

This method takes some time, but it does allow you to make changes to the video, like special effects or music, before you burn it to the DVD. Depending on the burning software that you use, you might be able to add a menu or other special features. However, the process can be quite slow because you have to transfer the file twice: first from the video to the computer and then again from the computer to the DVD.

So in order to save time and effort, you can copy the tapes to a DVD without the use of a computer. There are two ways to do this:

The first involves buying a DVD recorder that allows input from another source. You simply connect your VCR by cable to the DVD recorder. Then while the video plays, it is also recording. If you choose this option, consider purchasing a video processor called a proc amp or a time base corrector. These devices stabilize and improve the quality of the analog video as it is fed to the DVD recorder and can greatly improve the resulting images that you get on the DVD.

The second option is to purchase a combination DVD/VCR recorder. It does the same thing as the previous option without needing to connect any cables. If you are planning to copy a lot of videos, it is worth your time and effort to find out what kind of processing the machine does to the analog signal from the videotape before it converts it to the digital signal that gets recorded in DVD format. You want the best possible result that you can get.

If you do the conversion yourself, always follow the manufacturer's instructions to ensure you capture the video appropriately. Make sure that you have cleaned the heads of the VCR between copying videos. Old tapes carry a lot of dust or other particles that can clog up your VCR. And since you are copying directly from the video to the DVD, whatever picture quality issues you have with the video will appear on the DVD.

Understand that if you have videos which are recorded at SLP (6 hours of video on a tape) you will not get the same quality of recording onto a DVD as if the video was recorded at SP (2 hours of video on a tape). If you find the quality is not acceptable for you, consider changing your method of converting videos to DVD. However, for many people, the time and energy saved in converting the videos on their own will outweigh any concerns over video quality.